Full text of "Cameos"
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ELLA WHEELER WILCOX
W. B. CONKEY COMPANY
ELLA WHEELER WILCOX
ACT -7 1914
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
POEMS OP PASSION
POEMS OP PLEASURE
POEMS OP POWER
POEMS OF CHEER
POEMS OP SENTIMENT
POEMS OP PROGRESS
POEMS OP EXPERIENCE
THE KINGDOM OF LOVE
In the Press
POEMS OF PROBLEMS
THE GARDEN OF FORGOTTEN THINGS - - iy 9
THE APPARITION - - - - - 27
TWO AT THE RESTAURANT - - - 37
THE DEPARTURE 45
THE MENDICANT 55
THE GARDEN OF FOR-
THE GARDEN OF FOR-
It was the hour when Day keeps
tryst with Dusk that I found it. A
single star glowed like a beacon above
the rim of the earth; and in the still
waters of a dreaming Cove, I saw the
inverted reflection of midsummer trees.
It was a subtle odour which lured me
into the tangled paths of memory; an
elusive fragrance, blowing up from the
Meadows of The-Used-To-Be; and it
led me on, and on, until the House of
Reality was lost to sight.
I found myself wandering in strange
places, through dim ways, toward a
nameless, magnetic goal.
I do not know why I pressed forward ;
the House of Reality was very beauti-
ful and I had long dwelt there, with
Content guarding my portal, and Love
But when an old perfume calls,
Having set forth, I proceeded, pos-
sessed equally by curiosity and fear;
for the road grew lonelier, and an in-
definable sadness pervaded the atmos-
Presently I came to a bridge, which
bore evidences of having been an en-
chanting structure; but now it was
broken and decayed, and under it lay
FORGOTTEN THINGS 11
the arid bed of a vanished stream.
Hard by, a creaking sign-board swung
from a leaning mile-post; and by the
pale light of the increasing stars, I read
these half-effaced words, "The Bridge
of Dreams, spanning the River of
Across the bridge I hurried; and
just on the other side I saw it — the
Garden of Forgotten Things.
The entrance was choked by weeds;
for no foot had trodden there in many
a year; but, moved with desperate
courage and a desire to finish this un-
premeditated journey, I forged forward.
A phosphorus light shed a peculiar
and awesome radiance over the tangled
grasses at my feet.
I leaned low, and gazed at the spot
whereon I stood. It was a partially
buried headstone, bearing the name of
a friend loved and lost in my first
Once that stone stood erect, amidst
carefully tended flowers, and the path
leading to it had been kept smooth by
the feet of faithful friendship.
But that was long and long ago, and
for decades of time the neglected stone
had been pressing its sorrowful face
against the bosom of earth, lonely and
forgotten by the world.
r A weird shape flitted beside me as I
passed on. So absorbed was I with
suddenly awakened recollections of my
lost friend, that I paid little heed to the
shape; but it pressed closer, and at last
I turned, to see the face of an early
FORGOTTEN THINGS 13
Passion, once beautiful with vivid life,
but now an empty mask, from which all
expression had fled.
"Do not follow me," I cried, acceler-
ating my steps. "There is nothing —
nothing for us to say."
"There is nothing," answered the
shape, as it departed into the shadows
from whence it came.
The way seemed newly desolate, and
a wide-winged bird wheeled above
my head, giving utterance to strange
As he cried, that subtle, haunting
odour blew up again from the Meadows
of The-Used-To-Be; and old raptures,
old sorrows, vanished friendships, and
ephemeral loves, lost ideals and outlived
pleasures, trooped behind me, a shadowy
horde, starred with pallid faces of the
The Garden of Forgotten Things,
filled with this nebulous host of pres-
ences, became insupportable.
I turned, affrighted, and fled back:
back to the House of Reality, past the
keeper of the portal, whose face had
grown troubled over my absence, I
sped, straight into the arms of Abiding
Voices affect me like music, like per-
fumes, like scenes in nature.
I have heard the voice of a man or a
woman who was not visible, and all the
atmosphere changed as if a sudden wind
had arisen, or as if an eclipse had taken
place at noonday, or as if a "light that
never was on land or sea " had risen in
the skies at night.
Once in the desert of the common-
place I heard a voice, and instantly I
was enveloped in beauty. Statues
gleamed from hidden niches, and foun-
tains played, and there were culture
and repose and charm over all my
Voices are exact reflections of the
mind and soul; or they are echoes from
Not all soft voices are pleasant; not
all loud voices are unpleasant. It
depends upon the quality.
There is a woman who is crowned
with youth and classic beauty; she is
like a marble goddess to see, and oft-
times I have beheld her moving about
exquisitely kept lawns under the shadow
of great trees.
She is a picture to please the eye; a
picture — until she speaks. Always
when her voice reaches my ears the
same thing occurs; the beautiful lawns
give place to ragged, unkempt farm-
house yards; the great trees vanish,
and I see only forlorn buildings, dilapi-
dated stables, men in shirt-sleeves and
" suspenders " coming home tired with
toil; women, with calico aprons and
prematurely faded faces, performing
disagreeable duties. The utterly com-
monplace and unromantic side of life
is expressed by the voice of this
It is like a blow to my ear!
Her own nature is devoid of romance.
There is no sentiment in her soul. And
so the voice tells the story of tempera-
mental poverty, despite her appearance
Another woman who is sweet and
wholesome to look upon, and normal
in every respect, speaks, and I grow
dazed as under the influence of some
She may discuss weather or bonnets;
she may speak of art and literature, or
she may talk of current gossip; yet
the same result invariably follows.
There is a little blur over my brain, a
peculiar haze, and the real things of
life seem so far away, and I imagine
incense curling up from censers in some
dim room. Some time, in some past
life, she has been a part of such con-
Once I met a man of talents, a man
of whom the world had great hopes, of
whom it expected wonderful achieve-
ments. But after I had heard him
speak I ceased to believe in his future.
His voice was light, as thin water run-
ning over shallow places; it could not
be a voice of the depths.
I know a man whose voice will bring
calm out of turmoil, peace out of dis-
cord, and rest out of weariness. Men,
women, children, animals, all feel the
magnetism and charm of his modu-
lated tones. Each sentence is a caress,
however dignified the words may be.
There are voices which rouse you to
action, which stir you with ambition;
and there are others which fill you with
despondency. There are voices which
irritate you like the buzzing of an insect
or the grating of a file; and voices
which hiss like serpents and snap like
Sometimes from the rosebud mouth
of youth proceeds the cracked voice of
age; and from feminine lips, the deep
bass of masculine tones. But most
dreadful of all is the thin piping voice
of femininity issuing from the bearded
lips of man.
That which we are, that which we
have been in some former incarnation,
speaks in our tones.
That which we are, and the result of
that which we have been, can be changed
and modified by the cultivation of the
Were all the world to speak in a
melodious and pleasing voice, many of
the harsh and disagreeable qualities in
human nature would disappear.
What does your voice express?
Listen, and analyze it, and then ask
your best friend, if you are brave enough
to hear the answer.
The Mother entered the boudoir and
her daughter closed the door behind her.
Then she seated herself, facing the
Girl with a Dream in her eyes, and took
" I want to talk with you this morn-
ing," she began. " Will you listen ?"
A faint shadow crossed the face of
the Girl, and the Dream in her eyes
But she answered with a single acqui-
escing, and perhaps appealing, mono-
syllable. " Yes," she said.
"It is about Paul," the Mother
continued; " I think he comes here too
" You are so young — too young to
have men calling to see you. It is
foolish to distract your mind from
music and studies with the nonsense
which men talk to girls."
The Girl leaned forward, but her
glance reached beyond her Mother's
chair, and she seemed to listen to some
sound other than her Mother's voice.
" Pardon me, Mother," she said, "but
I am sure someone knocked at the
The Mother went to the door, opened
it, and peered into the corridor.
" There is no one in sight," she said,
and resumed her seat.
THE APPARITION 29
" Paul is a fine fellow, I know/' she
continued, " but he, too, is wasting time
in calling on you so often. He should
be thinking of his future, and of the
work he is given to do in life, and he
should be applying himself seriously
" But, Mother, he often talks to me
of just these things; and he says he
always goes away stirred with new and
noble ambition after he has seen me.
I am an encouragement to him,"
The Mother frowned. " That is an
old platitude," she said. " Men have
talked that way to women since the
world began; it means nothing, my
child. It is a waste of your time to
listen to such things."
Again the Girl leaned forward.
" Mother, there is surely someone
trying to enter the door."
" There is no one, I tell you," re-
peated the Mother impatiently, " and
you must listen to me until I have
finished. The time you sacrifice to
Paul would make you proficient in
French or on the piano; for you not
only give him time when he calls, but
you read his notes, and you dress for
him, and you are growing idle and
dreamy when he is not here. I really
must insist that you ask Paul to remain
away, and that you return to your old
habits of study."
The Girl touched her Mother's arm,
and her eyes were dilated.
" Someone came into the room just
THE APPARITION 31
then," she said. " Someone is behind
The Mother turned with a start, but
saw nothing. " You are trying to dis-
tract me, but I shall finish what I came
to say," and her voice grew stern.
" Men from the cradle to the grave
have always been in the habit of en-
croaching on woman's time, without
apology. They expect her to bestow
sympathy, diversion, and amusement,
and they never think they are obliged
to give anything in return. You must
learn to understand them at their real
value, and to direct your life accord-
"But Paul gives me his society in
return for mine," the Girl replied, " and
I enjoy him; he is interesting and
The Mother's frown deepened; there
was asperity in her tone. " That is
mere sentimental nonsense. You are
too young to know whether a man is
interesting or attractive. You should
not think of such things; you should
be thinking only of your studies at this
" Mother, there is — there is someone
— something behind you."
The Mother rose. " You need a
specialist for nervous disorders," she
said. " Your brain has become vision-
ary. Your nerves are affected. I will see
the doctor to-day about you. You must
be in bed at nine o'clock hereafter and
you must stop all this sentimental folly."
THE APPARITION 33
"Mother, turn quickly," the Girl
cried, " and you will see what is behind
you; a vague, shadowy form, but
very, very beautiful; and, Mother, it is
trying to whisper in your ear."
And then the Mother turned, and lo !
there stood the Spirit of her Lost Youth,
and she looked straight in its eyes.
" Why, I had quite forgotten you," she
said very gently, after a silence.
" I thought so," replied the Phantom,
" that is why I came. But I will not
detain you. I only wanted to be re-
membered." And with a smile at the
young Girl, the Phantom waved its
hand and was gone.
And the Mother smiled, too, and
went over and kissed her daughter,
and said, " Well, one can be young but
once, and Paul is a good boy after all."
And she went out softly.
And the Dream came back in the
TWO AT THE RESTAURANT
TWO AT THE RESTAURANT
At neighbouring tables in the brilliant
restaurant, filled with flowers, perfume,
and beauty, sat two women, each with
One woman was young in years, but
her sharp angles, her lustreless eye, her
ansemic skin, and aggressive manner,
all marked her as one whose attenuated
and colourless soul was incapable of
youth. The other woman had reached
her meridian, and turned her face
toward the afternoon of life.
She did not like the view; her eyes,
faded, yet still splendid, looked back-
ward to the receding noon and morning
hours; and always, wherever she might
be, there the gaze of the multitude was
drawn. She was like a magnificent
hothouse rose, beautiful such a little
while ago, and still exhaling fragrance,
which no one can pass unmoved, even
though its leaves are curled and its
The orchestra drowned the rattle of
silver and china and the hum of voices
in the surging billows of the " Blue
Danube Waltz." The young woman
with the colourless soul was unstirred.
Her critical and unkind glance was
fastened on the neighbouring table.
She smiled sarcastically and remarked
to her companion: "Isn't it queer
TWO AT THE RESTAURANT 39
some women cannot realize they are no
longer young? The woman at the next
table, for instance."
The woman with the soul of a rose
had flushed into sudden semblance of
her lost youth with the first strains of
the immortal waltz of Strauss. Her
widely-separated eyes had deepened in
colour; the blood had leaped from her
heart into her cheek; the lines about
the corners of her beautiful mouth,
made by the cruel finger of time, dis-
appeared in a half -smile full of volup-
tuous reminiscences. She beat time to
the music with one gloved hand, and
unconsciously her graceful body swayed
slightly from side to side. The eyes of
her companion, a man younger than
herself, rested tenderly upon her, but
she was not thinking of him. Other
scenes, other hours, other men had risen
before her vision. " Isn't she absurd ?"
asked the thin, sharp voice of the young
woman with the colourless soul.
But the man to whom she spoke did
not answer aloud. He was a man of
temperament — of experience and knowl-
edge of human nature. Mutely he was
saying to his companion: " Poor little
weed that you are, how could you be ex-
pected to understand a hothouse bloom?
Never, though you exist for a century,
will life bring to you one hour of such
intense emotion as have made years of
this woman's life. Never will those
sneering lips know one such kiss as has
fallen upon her mouth in showers.
Never will your cold eyes look into the
TWO AT THE RESTAURANT 41
eyes of a man and read the answer to
the riddle of the universe — great love
given and received. Never will you
know that wonderful hour of mutual
conquest and subjugation. You are the
arid sage-bush on the desert of life.
She is the opulent rose — faded, yet still
breathing forth a delicious fragrance.
Even after her leaves fall utterly, she
will be the rare vase containing them,
and subtle incense will steal forth as
long as the vase lasts. And you, in
youth or age, will ever be the arid
sage-bush on the desert."
But aloud the man spoke only to call
the waiter and pay his cheque ; and the
two went out, leaving the woman with
the soul of a rose still beating time to the
rhythm of the " Blue Danube Waltz."
She had heard no echo of a footstep
down the hall, no opening or closing of
a door, no sound of a vehicle on the
Yet she became suddenly conscious
that a departure had taken place.
It was after she had risen from her
perfumed bath, and, swathed in filmy,
rose-colored draperies, passed between
the mirrors which lined her boudoir on
either side, that she paused, struck with
the sudden sense of desolation.
How could this thing have happened
so silently, and with no warning ?
Why had no one told her that it was
soon to occur ? Did others of her
household know of the departure, and
had she alone been kept in ignorance of
The thought was intolerable.
She swept across the spacious dress-
ing-room, and knocked imperiously
upon the door which led into the apart-
ment of Love.
" I will ask him," she said, " and he
must tell me if he knew of the de-
parture, and when it took place."
But Love swung wide the portal, and
met her with smiling eyes.
" You have slept well," he said. "You
are radiant as the dawn." And he kissed
her full upon the mouth.
" He does not know," she whispered
THE DEPARTURE 47
to her heart; "not yet. But he will
know it soon, too soon."
Still, the vastness of her desolation
seemed lessened by Love's smile and
While the maid arranged her beauti-
ful hair, and selected the pretty frock
from the bewildering array of delicate
garments, she secretly watched the
girl's face to see if any consequences
of the departure could be surprised
" Madame will choose the pink bows
for her hair this morning ? They suit
her fine colour so well."
It was at once a question and a de-
cision, as the light hands held the
velvet knots against the shell-tinted
" Fanchette does not know," she said
to her heart again. " But she will know
soon ; all the world will know. It can-
not be hidden."
Her own knowledge of the departure
bore more and more heavily upon her
mind as the day passed.
Friends came, with pleasant words
and sweet flatteries. She drove in the
afternoon, and met throngs who craned
their necks to see her pass in her car-
riage. At high tea she heard many com-
pliments; and she dined with admiring
friends, and spent a gay evening after-
ward; but she always kept the thought
of the departure uppermost in her con-
sciousness, and always she was saying
to herself : " They do not know yet, for
they would not dare laugh and jest in
THE DEPARTURE 49
face of my despair if they knew; but
It was a long day, and she was glad
when at last she was again in her
Divested by deft hands of all her
finery, her maid dismissed, she stood
alone before the long triple mirrors
and turned on a blaze of pitiless
Yes, it was quite true; that which
she had discovered in the early morning
for the first time was painfully evident
The perfect curve of her exquisite
chin was broken; and between her
brows the elusive line which had come
and gone always like a passing shadow,
indicating her changing moods, was
clearly discernible now. It was per-
Youth, radiant, fearless, adorable
first youth, had taken its departure.
But while she stood with her face
hidden in both hands, overwhelmed with
the magnitude of her despair; there was
a quick step, and a light knock on the
door, and Love entered with out-
" Why, my darling one, my beautiful
one," he said, " what is the matter ?
Has anyone hurt you or grieved you?"
And he kissed her once, twice, thrice,
and a score of times, on her hair, and
brow, and cheeks, and throat, and
Then she flung her arms about his
neck and buried her face on his breast.
THE DEPARTURE 51
" Oh, it does not matter, it does not
matter, after all !" she cried. And she
laughed and sobbed all in one as she
clung to him.
But when he questioned her about the
cause of her tears, and asked her why
she wept, she answered only:
" Just because."
For though she knew the departure
had taken place, she would not be the
first to mention it to Love, so wise was
she, remembering that Love is blind.
For the first time in her life the Woman
entered a room timidly. It was a
spacious room, well filled with women
brave in festive attire.
The black and white uniforms of the
hotel waiters gave the assemblage its
only touch of masculinity.
Women of wealth and social position
were there, women of genius, women
who had made their mark in some field
of endeavour; a few young, many
middle aged, and some old women.
The Woman herself was old. She
had been conscious of it for almost a
year; and now it came over her with
new and unrelenting force, as she en-
tered the room filled with others whose
lives had been so unlike her own; whose
ideals and pleasures had been so dif-
ferent, and whose favour she had come
The favour of human companionship.
She had always been used to taking
what she wanted, without an effort.
All her life she had received much for
little, something for nothing; and now
she was craving a little, and ready to
give any price for it.
" I am surely very old, and very
lonely," she said mentally, as she looked
about her; " else how could I be seek-
ing anything here ?"
THE MENDICANT 57
Yet as the friend who had brought
her, a guest, to this brilliant assemblage,
presented her to woman after woman,
she looked in the face of each with a
She had been out of the sanatorium
but a few months ; the sanatorium where
she had spent a long, long year, and
where the consciousness was first forced
upon her that her day of prowess was
It had been a long day; and even
after the twilight had fallen, and the
evening approached, she still imagined
it broad day; and there was no one
brave enough to tell her that her glory
had departed, and that her prime, her
beauty, and her vogue with men, were
things of a past generation.
It was her mirror at the sanatorium
that first spoke the brutal fact.
And then, after she came out into
her world again, the same fact looked
from the eyes of every man she met.
All men glanced at her indifferently,
or showed her only the courtesies due
to old age, while their attention was
drawn elsewhere. Her presence had
lost its compelling power. It awoke
no interest, no admiration, no desire,
nothing that meant life to her.
From the time she could remember,
men had made her world; they had
fought for her favour; they had loved
her, or told her so ; they had forgotten
other women for her.
And she had gone through life
intoxicated with the sense of her own
THE MENDICANT 59
omnipotence; and, like a drunken man,
she had believed herself happy. She
had been too worldly wise, too cold,
and too cautious, to lose her place
in the world — a place won through a
good man's name and fortune.
But she cared only for this place as
a stage whereon she might display her
powers of conquest.
Women were nothing, less than noth-
ing to her. She always said that her sex
seemed divided into two classes — stupid
women, with only sense enough to be
good; and weak women, foolish enough
to be bad.
She prided herself upon being a
man's woman; and always when she
entered a room, men fluttered about
her like insects about a point of flame.
Even after she passed her prime a
romantic halo enveloped her, and ren-
dered her interesting to certain types
of young men. As, on a rainy day, they
might seek an old chest and peruse
yellow letters breathing forth strange
perfumes, they sought her presence,
which breathed of tragic experiences —
of duels, of suicides, of a wife gone
mad, of wise men grown fools through
her power. So, long after men had
ceased to care for her, she had taken
their curiosity as an evidence of love,
and flattered herself that she was still
a dominating personality.
The first blow came when a young
man who sought her society, assiduously
said to her, " You must have been a
great beauty in your day."
THE MENDICANT 61
Then she knew her day was waning;
was perhaps over.
The young man was an author, and
he was studying her as a type. But she
had not known that.
It was soon afterward that she fell
very, very ill; and all through her
sickness the words of the young man
haunted her. Yes, she had been beau-
tiful. And now it was all past. When
she looked in her mirror again, she
knew the terrible truth. She prayed
to die — the first earnest prayer of her
whole life; but Destiny was not ready
to accord her such mercy. She, the
merciless one, must live on, and on.
The years seemed to stretch before
her, barren and desolate as the sands of
the desert to the lost traveller. Across
the desert came a good Samaritan; one
who had pity upon her; and so she was
led out toward an oasis of human
She looked about the room, and saw
little bevies of women scattered here
and there, drinking tea, chatting, laugh-
ing, and all seemingly happy in the
society of one another.
She did not care for any of them.
She did not care for their pleasures.
It was all dull — dreary and dull.
Yet to know these women — to count
them as friends, to share such distrac-
tions as they had to offer — was the only
thing life had to give her now.
She felt timid, old, an alien in their
THE MENDICANT 63
midst; a mendicant begging for un-
palatable food rather than slowly starve
Oh, the bitter taste of Dead-Sea
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